What REALLY Happens to Your Recycling

John Dorschner
2 min readMar 9, 2022

By John Dorschner MiamiWebNews.com

Looking closely at recycling in America is like watching sausage being made. I visited a major recycling center in Miami — and saw a fast-moving conveyor belt and a series of screens zooms through material that residents may have spent considerable time choosing and cleaning.

This center — like almost every recycling facility in America — is “single stream.” Automated equipment sorts material. Those systems are set up to accept some stuff — and not others. Plastic in particular is a big, complex issue. Glass isn’t complex — it’s just less than worthless.

Huge amounts get discarded. People — even conscientious people — try to recycle material they shouldn’t. A Miami-Dade County survey showed that almost half of its recycling is “contaminated” — meaning it goes to landfill.

Are there better systems? Sure. In one Japanese town, residents separate recycling into 34 different types and then carry the material themselves to recycling centers. How would that work in America, where something as wearing a mask sets off firestorms of debate?

For a new, inside look on recycling — and how each of us could do it better — I have started with three reports. They are available on my blog:

What Really Happens at a Recycling Center: https://miamiwebnews.blogspot.com/p/what-really-happens-to-recycling.html

The REAL Do’s and Don’ts of Recycling: https://miamiwebnews.blogspot.com/p/the-real-dos-and-donts-of-recycling.html

A report on my own village of Miami Shores, where the problem is that quite a few people are too conscientious: https://miamiwebnews.blogspot.com/p/overly-conscientious-whats-wrong-with.html

A one-minute, 20-second video of how a recycling processing center works is available here: https://youtu.be/eGc8CGlLYZc



John Dorschner

A Miami journalist for a half-century dedicated to peace, equality and environmental protection. Author of Verdict on Trial, available on Amazon.